Podcast

Paula Sáenz López 24 August 2020

Innovation in the Fast Lane: Running the Future of a Top FMCG Company with Rahul Hingorani

In this episode of the Career Success Podcast, we have invited Rahul Hingorani, Head of Innovation Southern Europe at Diageo to discuss with us about to launch successful Innovation.

Rahul has experience in different companies. Before Diageo he worked for Google and P&G across various markets, categories, and functions, such as marketing, sales, and revenue management. His broad experience has made him understand how valuable is to be always focused on bringing a new point of view on what he does. But he has also learnt that to be a good innovation director the first thing you have to understand is “not every single innovation you launch it’s a going to be a success”.

Topics Covered:

  • How can you start the innovation process successfully?
  • What is the most challenging aspect of a new launch?
  • How do you convince customers and retailers to buy your products and to be passionate about them?
  • A new perspective of innovation after a global pandemic.

 

Rahul Hingorani:

I think first thing is understanding that actually not every single innovation you launch is going to be a success is the first step internally.

Paula:

Hi, this is Paula Sáenz and welcome to this episode of the Career Success Podcast. Joining us today, we have for Rahul Hingorani, a seasoned leader with global experience across top tier companies, such as Google, Proctor & Gamble, and currently at Diageo, not only has he worked across different markets and companies, but his curious personality has brought him to work across multiple functions as well. From marketing to revenue management and sales and category development role is always focused on bringing a new point of view onto what he does. A new method or idea which will bring him and his business to the next level. Welcome, Rahul.

Rahul Hingorani:

Hi Paula. Thank you.

Paula:

Hello. Thank you for joining us today. We will be discussing innovation, which is a very broad topic, but I think it’s a very especially relevant topic in today’s world, where who knows what the future is going to look like. Yeah, even though it’s a broad topic, let’s start simple. As the Innovation Director at Southern Europe at Diageo, how do you know that your ideas are good?

Rahul Hingorani:

Thanks Paula. Sure. That’s not a broad question at all, is it? I mean, to be fair, it’s, it’s relatively easy to generate good ideas. To really know there’s an opportunity behind an idea, it’s really important to focus and to remember on the end-user or in the FMCG world, the consumer. The consumers in making sure that ideas are good. To elaborate a little bit more, bringing it closer to the FMCG space. I consider there are two classes of innovation, product launches. Two major categories. One is the more disruptive ones, the ones that you could perhaps call game-changers, like many of the Apple products that have launched over time. These don’t come very often. These often change the landscape in the category they play in, or actually create altogether a new category. If I think of examples closer to home in the beverage alcohol space that I work in currently, I would take pink gin as a good example.

Rahul Hingorani:

The first gin was a little bit of a game-changer in gin because actually, it created a subcategory that didn’t exist. The other types of innovations are the ones that are more frequent. I would call them perhaps incremental innovations. These are ones that often build on something that already exists, improves it in a meaningful way. These tend to be something that is much more common in FMCG. If I take an example of this building on the flavored gin story that we just talked on, I recently launched a product called Tanqueray Florida Sevilla, an orange gin made from Sevillan oranges, less sweet and more premium than any of the pink gins that existed. That is a more, let’s say the traditional type of innovation launch. We’d take these two big types of product launches. What’s really important as I said at the start is the consumer is the one that dictates how successful that idea is. Often the first type of product launches that we looked at, the consumer isn’t necessarily saying that this is what they want because perhaps they don’t know that that’s what they want.

Rahul Hingorani:

However, it’s still very important that once the product is out there, the consumer is the one giving very quick feedback in terms of how that needs to uphold. On the second one, which is more common to probably most people listening. It’s critical to test whether it’s with focus groups with consumers, whether it’s digitally in more simple mechanics, or even just putting a product out there in a room with 10 people, it’s important to test things like the product itself, the quality. In our case, the liquids, the labeling, the packaging, the creative, all of this is key to ensure that your idea is good to move forward.

Paula:

Okay. Very interesting. Since you’re giving an example of a launch that you’ve been directly responsible for, and since you’re mentioning as well, there were a whole process that you need to go through to make sure it is successful. What would you say is the most challenging aspect of the whole thing?

Rahul Hingorani:

That’s a good question. It’s not easy to do innovation. I think that’s the first thing, but I would say that the thing I find constantly, and I see this in many examples across the industry that we fail in is getting the value equation right. In any innovation or in fact, any commercial initiative by that much, it’s critical to get the kind of, let’s say the triple win triangle. We often talk about consumers, about the customer and about the manufacturer, but getting the balance right in that equation. Isn’t easy. If you fail in any of the three, then ultimately your product will fail in the market. Ultimately creating something that consumers are willing to pay for is the first and most important priority, but then ensuring that customers see the benefit and want to support that product. At the same time, it’s something that’s positive to foster in your business.

Rahul Hingorani:

That balance sounds relatively straightforward, but actually I think is where many products perhaps are smaller than they could be. Then ultimately fail. If I think of other parts of the process like manufacturing or even developing packaging, all of that stuff is not easy. It varies a lot by industry. We’ve got a very strong team that finds that quite straightforward to build new products and put them out there. Once you create that muscle, that isn’t actually the toughest thing to do, but I would go back to this kind of value equation piece are the hardest thing to learn.

Paula:

Speaking of one of the parts of the triangle that you were mentioning. In terms of the costumer, the retailer, how would you say, or how do you convince them not only to buy on your product, but to be actually passionate about it and to believe in it as much as you do? How do you approach that at all?

Rahul Hingorani:

I would break it down into a few things and the first one sounds quite simple, but it’s really important. I’d call it the basics. The more you’ve demonstrated to your customers, that with the different launches you have been able to bring to them, you are delivering particularly against their timelines, the operational bits and pieces they need, the more confidence they have that when you’re going to bring them a new product, and they trust that it’s going to work operationally into their system. This, again, sounds a little bit less engaging, but actually, it’s key. If you don’t get this right, as much as you get someone to fall in love with your product, they don’t have any confidence in wanting to support your launch. That would be the first one. Here, I’m talking about simple things like the product specifications they may need for their system or pack images for their website.

Rahul Hingorani:

That kind of thing is really key. The second one is a presentation in itself. Now you only get one chance to make a first impression, as you know, and I think this is true both internally and externally, but when you have a new product, the first time someone sees an image of that product is the first time they’re already making a decision or an opinion on that product. This again, perhaps sounds a little bit basic, but making sure that your customers are presented the product properly in the right time, if you need a confidentiality agreement to do so. So be it. There’ve been a number of times where customers have asked us about a new product because they’ve seen it somewhere else and that’s not the best way to find out about a product. Pretty straightforward, but ensuring that you’ve created a muscle to provide the right information and you’re presenting the product itself in the right way to customers are the two big pieces you need to get out of the way upfront.

Rahul Hingorani:

Then it’s all about engagement. That would be the third job for me. Making sure that customers and I’m not only talking about your main point of contact with your customer. I would be talking about anyone involved in that supply chain, whether it supplies, their finance team. Marketing, whoever it is. Ultimately you want them to be excited about your product. Something, again, as simple as providing samples every time that you are launching a new product or even freebies, little bits of pieces of merchandise that they perhaps may value. Running launch events at head office, running incentives with some of their team, or even providing unique discounts for their customers to try ahead of other consumers, these little things go quite far.

Rahul Hingorani:

I guess I’d just reflect on that and say, whilst I think this would give you a really good chance of getting your customers to really go after your product, there is a reality that we need to realize as manufacturers that we’re one of many manufacturers for the customer. It’s important that we prioritize within our customers, within our own business because you perhaps won’t be able to do all of this in every single product launch that you want to present to your customers.

Paula:

Okay. In this line of turning good ideas into good business, more specifically, is there any questions that you yourself, you ask to make sure that a good idea is going to be successful in the market? Any examples of specific questions or any process that you have for yourself that ensures that good ideas going to turn successful in the markets? I am. No, that’s a great question.

Rahul Hingorani:

Definitely, there is one that, that I feel very important and I’ve seen far too many times not being asked enough, I think, but the first thing I’d say though, is important to note that I think Harvard talks about a 95% failure rates with innovation. I think first thing is understanding that actually not every single innovation you launch is going to be a success is the first step internally. I think to help you get to let’s say more than that 5% of success rate, which we do successfully enjoy. The key question I ask is, is there a true consumer insight behind this idea? Because often when you get marketing and product managers all put together, they really fall in love with their idea. They often are blind to actually understanding whether other people would actually fall in love with it. At every step of the way, it’s really important to ask yourself, what is this solving for? What is the problem that we’re going to be able to solve with this product?

Rahul Hingorani:

Or how am I really enhancing a consumer experience in a meaningful way through this idea? If you yourself don’t get moved with the answer that you have to that question, it’s probably not going to cut it. I think that is really important to remember.

Paula:

Going into a difficult question and speaking of innovation in today’s context, how do you think, or what’s your perspective on innovation after this global pandemic? Is it going to emerge stronger? Which ways is it going to change? What’s your idea on the next few months, the next few years?

Rahul Hingorani:

As you hint there’s probably two speeds. There’s a few months, or let’s say more short-term and the longer term. I’m confident that in the longer term, innovation will only be more important than it was before the pandemic. I think we’ve seen this in every other crisis or pandemic that we’ve suffered, let’s say. If I think of a very simple thing, that’s happened across Western Europe, or across most of the world, the fact that we’ve been in confinement and spent a lot more time at home, along with things that were already happening in the past. There was an increase in video on demand. There was a huge widespread technology, which means today that pretty much, I think on average in Spain, we have two mobile phones per adult, and-

Paula:

I didn’t know that.

Rahul Hingorani:

Then the huge growth of the food service delivery. Brands like Deliveroo or Global has just meant that spending time at home becomes a lot easier.

Rahul Hingorani:

What people are finding is they’re finding lots of ways to socialize at home, which perhaps in many of the particularly Southern European countries was less common because we’d always go out. This trend alone is something that was happening already over time, but this pandemic has hugely accelerated that, and often has created a lot of that increase in the digital space as well. For talking about something very simple, what this has provided an opportunity for is consumers are looking for more ways to prepare better drinks and cocktails at home because they’re spending more time at home.

Rahul Hingorani:

Something as simple as that is a small trend that is going to inevitably provide opportunity for innovation, but there’s a number of things that are happening aside from people spending more time at home. One of the biggest increases in spend in the last few months and across Western Europe has been on, let’s say more indulgent treats and on baking products. People are learning in many cases. I would take myself as an example. I hadn’t baked anything in my whole life and the last five months I’ve baked those sorts of things, whether that’s cookies or caked.

Paula:

I hear you. Same here.

Rahul Hingorani:

Which is a great opportunity because you know, you’ve suddenly got a much more engaged consumer base of people who are willing to spend time in the kitchen to experiment. Again, this is a big opportunity for innovation. Then finally, again, one of the trends that we saw before, but we see accelerated through this period is we call it holistic. It’s consumers are looking for different ways to balance their lives better, whether it’s controlling their food intake or trying to do more sports, being more healthy, holistically overall, and not something we see again, accelerated. Perhaps huge opportunity for innovation when we come out of this pandemic. I do think that in the short term, innovation will suffer a little bit. It is only normal as customers are also rationalizing their ranges. Consumers experiences less things when they are out to their home and try things. That will come in the way, but in the longer term, as I say, I think it will be even stronger than it was going into this crisis.

Paula:

Okay. Okay. Well, Rahul, thank you so much for giving us your perspective on kind of a little bit more clarity on what’s going to happen regarding innovation and of course your insight on the topic. It’s been a pleasure. Thank you so much for being in today’s podcast.

Rahul Hingorani:

Thank you so much, Paola pleasure being here and I hope to speak soon.

Paula:

Yeah. Yes. Thank you so much to our listeners as well and see you in the next edition of the podcast. Bye.